Two years ago on July 16, 2012, the Food & Drug Administration approved the first-ever pill to prevent HIV, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). To mark this occasion, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) is thrilled to launch its PrEPare for Life program, including an online resource page and the first of its peer-based educational videos. The videos, along with the other resources provided online, aim to amplify the voices of young gay men of color and allow them to share what they think about PrEP's potential to impact their health, enhance their sexuality, and improve their quality of life. PrEPare for Life also incorporates community training into these resources to ensure that those who serve young gay men of color have the appropriate skill and knowledge to include PrEP in their services or discussions. Our hope is that these organizations will utilize our resources and videos to engage their constituents about PrEP and discuss whether it is a good option for them.
Check out our videos and our online resource page here! And join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the icons on the top right of the page or using the hashtags #PrEPareForLife or PrEPat2Years! www.nmac.org/prepareforlife
After fairly little public discourse following immediately after its approval, discussions around PrEP within the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities about have really begun heating up this year. Unfortunately, much of it has focused on the controversial statements made by a few PrEP opponents, while rarely acknowledging just how broad the consensus really is within the public health community that is extremely supportive of PrEP as a much-needed additional intervention. While the community has been squabbling over PrEP for some time now, tensions reached their peak in late May, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their PrEP guidelines for providers. There is certainly value in engaging in a larger and more inclusive debate about where we should be targeting and focusing our collective (and limited) resources in order to ensure their greatest impact. But with infection rates continuing to rise among gay men, and increasing dramatically among gay men of color, that debate cannot be an excuse for delaying efforts to educate our communities about PrEP as an additional, effective and potentially powerful tool in our comprehensive approach to HIV prevention. The CDC's, as well as the World Health Organization's guidelines released just this week, underscore the urgency and the difficulty of the task ahead of us.
As President Obama stated on World AIDS Day 2012, we must do more to show that the lives of young Black and Latino gay men matter. NMAC is demonstrating this commitment to these young men by working to provide them all the information necessary to make an informed decision about PrEP, as well as fighting to ensure that they have access to it should they decide to utilize it. The challenges that have limited access to PrEP for some, reflect the long-standing and persistent disparities that have faced our community since the very start of this epidemic. And as we work to implement the promising new tools -- whether medical or structural -- that have recently become available, our community must maintain its focus on those most heavily impacted by this disease: gay men generally, but particularly gay men of color. Should we fail to ensure that implementation is done equitably, and for PrEP is only taken up widely within more affluent white gay communities for example, then the very tools that held such promise and inspired us to believe an end to this epidemic was finally possible, could instead serve only to exacerbate the racial and economic health disparities we've fought so hard against, undoing all the good that we have done over so many years.
As we work to ensure that PrEP achieves its full potential as a powerful and widely accessible weapon against HIV within all minority communities, both sexual and racial, the dynamic educational videos developed as part of PrEPare for Life's program, will continue to evolve and expand, culminating in the premiere of our entire film package at USCA 2014 in San Diego. The lives of young gay men, including gay men of color, have a deep and intrinsic value to this country and our community. We must do everything we can, not only to educate and empower them, but to authentically share their stories and provide them the freedom to determine for themselves how best to protect their health and end this epidemic within their own communities. I hope you will join me in marking this anniversary by sharing our videos and resource page, and supporting NMAC as we work to ensure that every tool in our arsenal is used in the fight to stop HIV.